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Banking in Scotland
Chapter IX - Banking Services

As has been said in a previous chapter, the early Scottish banks provided a very narrow range of services for their customers. As the 19th century progressed, however, this range increased markedly but it has been in the 20th century, particularly in the post-Second World War period that the greatest strides forward have been made.

In the very early days of banking most customers appear to have been personal account customers although the distinction between personal accounts and business accounts was by no means so clear then as it is now. As the industrial revolution progressed in the late 18th century and early 19th century the balance of business conducted by the banks shifted very firmly towards the business sector and this is reflected clearly in the types of service which evolved. In particular the tremendous growth of overseas trade after 1830 led the banks to develop the extensive range of services and settlement mechanisms required by the exporter and importer.

Other new services reflect the increasing sophistication of banking such as in the provision of computer services for customers or the increasing willingness of bankers to be flexible in developing new lending techniques (e.g., factoring).

Perhaps the most extensive changes in the 20th century, however, have come in the post-Second World War years in the sphere of personal services.

There were a number of reasons behind these developments but the principal one amongst these was the desire for growth. In the 1950s Government economic policy restricted the ability of the banks to expand their lending and some of them turned their thoughts to how they could grow within the confines of Government policy. The solution was found by the Commercial Bank of Scotland which led the way into the purchase of hire purchase companies in 1954. Other British banks soon followed this example although most banks continued to operate their hire purchase companies as subsidiaries rather than integrate them with the parent bank.

The expansion of services was also motivated by growing competition for deposits from other deposit takers such as building societies and national savings; and also by the realisation that only about 16 per cent of the adult population had an account in a commercial bank in 1965. Many more had accounts in the savings banks but there remained a substantial proportion of the population who were unbanked.

In an attempt to attract these customers into the branches to open accounts the offices themselves were made more attractive and the range of services was greatly expanded to include trustee, taxation, investment and insurance services.

Among the more significant of the new services which were introduced in the 1960s and 1970s were cheque cards and credit cards. The former were introduced in 1965 and 1966 by a number of Scottish and English banks some of whom acted in concert to produce a standard card which was recognised in all branches of all participating banks and served to guarantee payment of any cheque whether for cash or goods up to a maximum of 30, since raised to 50. This card subsequently became acceptable in many European countries.

The first credit card introduced to Britain was Barclaycard in 1966 in co-operation with Bank Americard and available in Scotland through the British Linen Bank (later Bank of Scotland). This was followed in 1972 by the Access Card scheme in which the Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank participated. The Visa Card (previously Barclaycard) is now available as Trustcard from the T.S.Bs and as Bank of Scotland Card.

These schemes captured the public imagination and brought a great deal of new business to the banks as well as expanding the banking habit.

Such was the proliferation of services that when the Scottish banks gave evidence to the Parliamentary Committee to Review the Functioning of Financial Institutions in 1977 they were able to list no less than ninety-two services which they offered to corporate and personal customers (see Appendix A).

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